On the last Friday in January Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gathered in front of a group of reporters and government officials to unveil his city’s latest tech initiative: GeoHub, a digital mapping portal aimed at reinventing how L.A. delivers services. Maps, of course, are vital tools of municipal business everywhere, be it in planning, transportation, public safety, public works, economic development and more. But for the first time a major city had built a real-time digital dashboard that would allow anyone–city workers, the public, NGOs, startups, the media–to access and mash up those maps. Garcetti described how after an earthquake a firefighter equipped with an iPad might immediately be able to find fire hydrants, sewer lines, electrical equipment, building infrastructure and the location of other emergency responders. Similarly, an NGO providing homeless services might see how encampment locations are affected by police activity or liquor store openings. GeoHub, Garcetti said, would help to “improve the quality of life” in Los Angeles. He then moved aside to make way for the man who built GeoHub: Jack Dangermond, a lanky white-haired 70-year-old billionaire who is the unlikeliest of tech moguls.
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